Friday, May 23, 2008

The Staircase

I've been busy going through the entire house finding things we no longer need for our yard sale tomorrow. It's been a bit of a trip down memory lane... remember Polly Pockets?

But, to keep everyone interested - a few shots of the one original feature left in our poor house. The staircase. Our house is the old traditional centre hall plan. You come in the front door and look right up the stairs. I believe it's very bad feng shui! There is a room on either side of the stairs, and then at the back of the house, the kitchen. It's a very simple, small house. The stairs when we moved in:
Paint over paint over varnish over varnish, I believe. My brother spent a few days sanding the treads for us. I spent the next year trying to scrape and sand the risers, and eventually decided it would be easier to paint them.
The blue is a lot darker in real life. I don't like it in this photo. One of the best things about our stairs is the width. They measure 3 1/2 feet wide. Two adults can walk up side by side, holding hands! (I think my husband and I did this only once. Just to see if we could.)

This is the upstairs hall. That's the crazy quilt my great-great aunties made. This hall is next on my to paint list, and again, there's no baseboards yet. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 16, 2008


We are famous here for starting projects. I, myself start a new one pretty much every week. Some have to do with the house, some don't! So, at any given time, there are at least four or five unfinished projects going on around here. Thus, no "after" photos of the master bedroom yet. Soon though. It is painted, and some of the baseboard is on. I thought it would be easy - cut to fit, and nail them on! Of course, it's not easy. The walls are wonky. The baseboard is not. Big gaps.

So I'll show you another unfinished project we are working on!! Our side porch. This is what was here when we moved in:
Not much to look at, and too small. Previous owners have told us that the original back door was not here - it was where the window to the left is. This door opens directly into the kitchen, which at one time had a back staircase going up to the master bedroom. (You already know this...) The staircase would have run up this wall; so it makes sense that the door wasn't there at that time.

So last fall we tore down the old porch! I was excited to see the original wooden clapboard. If I could, I would tear off all the aluminum siding. The wall to the right though, was in terrible condition - live ants, dead squirrels, some rot...and then there was the large upright hole in the corner. See where it was patched with raw wood? We haven't quite figured that out.

This is our new, bigger porch. It fits the space, and it just looks right, especially from way back at the end of the yard. This is pretty much where we are at right now. We are replacing the window on the right with a double hung window of the same size as the original windows in the house. We are putting new WOOD siding over the rotten siding. And we are using bit and pieces of our neighbours old sun room (see piles on porch...) to build a knee wall around the porch. We will screen it in above that, and possibly use the windows from the sun room as well. We'd like to have them installed so that they hook up to the ceiling, out of the way, in the summer. With the windows down, we could use this porch in the spring and fall too. It can't be finished soon enough. This week in Lanark County, the mosquitoes and black flies came to life with a vengeance!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

After ripping up the shag carpet the night we moved in, we had a pretty rough floor to deal with. Wherever there had been a stove pipe, the hole had just been covered with pieces of tin. We patched these with old tongue and groove wood we found in the shed. If you look closely, you can see the difference in the wood, but we can live with it.

This was the biggest hole in the baby's room. This room was actually carved out of the upper hall landing way back, but that's another story! Do, however, note the wall which was built directly on top of the orange shag carpet (lower right)...!

When we pulled up the tin, we found part of the original pipe...

with it's decorative grill still attached!! I was thrilled. This hole would have opened into the dining room below. At some time in the past the ceilings in our dining room and living room were lowered to accommodate plumbing. When they put up the new lower ceiling (curses!...) they just covered up this lovely thing! Anyway, we found it, cleaned it up and painted it, and installed it in another pipe hole....

This is in our oldest daughter's bedroom. She seems to be using it as a sort of time capsule, which is a very good idea. Anytime we've sealed off an area in the house, like behind the new tub, or when fixing a hole in the wall, we always put in some sort of souvenir for the next renovators to find!

I just cut a piece of Masonite to fit the hole, and I see I never did get around to staining it to match the floor! Maybe I'll get to that right now!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Living With The Past

I've done a bit of research on the history of our house. I'd like to do more. I've been to the Land Registry Office, and have a list of all the previous owners of our house, and what they paid for it. Most of the land south of the Mississippi River in town was originally owned by William Franklin Morphy. In fact, the original name of Carleton Place was "Morphy's Falls". He sold our lot to a Thomas Burgess in 1886 for $152.50. I wonder what the fifty cents covered!

I found Thomas Burgess and his wife Charlotte in the 1901 census. He was of English descent, she of Irish. They were Methodists. There's a big ink smudge in the "Profession" box, but I think it says "section foreman". Would this be a mill? The railroad? His annual salary was $600. The neatest thing for me though, was that they had three children. (Like us.) Two girls and a boy. (Like us.) Loretta was born in 1881, Florence in 1885 and Melville in 1890. I would imagine that Melville was born here in the house, probably in the master bedroom. Our son was born in 1997 here in the house. In the master bedroom. (Again, like us.) Knowing a bit about who lived and breathed and ate and slept and walked up and down those 16 steep stairs a thousand times a day
like you do is quite the feeling. As my Dad would say; "It boggles the mind."
These are before and after photos of the floor in the master bedroom.

In the upper photo you can see some of the original orange shag carpet that covered the entire second floor when we bought the house. And the state of the floorboards. And the stove pipe hole we found under a square of tin that was nailed to the floor. The cement block around it must weigh a ton, and is in the ceiling of the kitchen below - pretty much right over my head when I'm sitting at the kitchen table!!

Below shows the patch job we did. It looks pretty good. We've had to cover a few of these hole, and I've made measurements and notes showing just where the holes are. When I find nice stove pipe grate covers, I'll be able to add them in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Painting Walls / Painted Walls

I'm hoping to finish all the painting in the bedroom today, and then I can start putting up new baseboards! Oh, to have baseboards! I have to make them nice and thick and high and old looking, for authenticity, but also to hide the famous "big hole". Easier than trying to fix that thing with drywall!

It's a gorgeous day here, so I'll go upstairs and get at it, so that I can enjoy the afternoon. Below, a few "painted walls" in town...
This was Taylors , on the main street. They owned a department store and garage for a few generations. The front of the building has stone sills and lintels and a nice pressed metal cornice on top. This is on a side street, leading to the
Taylors garage, then a bicycle repair shop. Empty now.

Another limestone building on our main street. Someone rudely hung a wooden board over the original painted sign. Actually, I think there are several layers of painted advertising on this wall!
This building always seems to be empty and up for rent.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Bit of Background

I guess a bit of background is in order. The old town's name is Carleton Place, Ontario. I grew up in Southern Ontario, but moved to Ottawa to go to college. Then, as you know, life happens; you get married, have kids (in whatever order...), start careers, decide to buy a house, and discover a quaint little town half an hour west of the city that you'd never heard of. And here we are.

The town may be quaint, but our house isn't really. Yeah, all our relatives gush on about how much character it has, but I can't get past the aluminum siding. So I try to enjoy the inside! Today I am enjoying painting the master bedroom. It has had a coat of primer on the walls and ceiling for ten years now, so it seemed high time to choose a colour and get at it! Naturally, I forgot to take a "before" photo, but this is what it looks like today.
I left the ceiling white and I'm painting the walls "contemporary white". I wanted a calm room - every other room in the house is pretty colourful!This big hole is a bit exciting. The room has no baseboards because when we bought the house the whole upstairs had orange shag carpet and orange shag baseboards. I kid you not. We tore them out the very first night, and covered this large hole with tape (!). Ten years later (!) I took the tape off to paint and decided to see what was in the big hole. I stuck my camera in and pressed the shutter....
Look! (We are now in the hole, lying on the floor looking straight up...) On the left - that's the original plaster wall with wallpaper on it. See at the bottom where they tore off the original baseboards? Then a new upright for the new wall - drywall on right. Instead of fixing the plaster wall, they built a room inside a room. In our room. So I figure the original bedroom was a foot bigger in all directions. This is pretty much the story of our poor house. It was built in 1887 and then slowly destroyed by owner after owner... One more photo:I don't know if the photo will show this, but you see the lovely original pine plank floor to the left. Then to the right is a big hole in the floor covered with plywood...This originally was the opening for the back staircase from the kitchen to our bedroom. Someone tore out the staircase, covered the hole with plywood, and then built his n' hers closets over the hole. I hate these people so much!!!

Anyhoo - I must go do a second coat of paint! As promised, a few more photos of town...
This was built as a tannery, and is now a restaurant. It's on the banks of the Mississippi, right across from town hall.
This is one of my favourite antique shops. The building was originally a blacksmith shop, built in 1875.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I have two life coaches!!

My friend Wendy has encouraged me to write a blog since I spend all day on the internet anyway! But now I'll spend even more time wasting time at the computer! I woke up today full of plans, as always. After four coffees I still felt dopey, so I thought I'd take Shelby out for a walk before it rained. Then I thought, "I'll take the camera and get some shots of the river". Almost 50 photos later, I was home, Shelby was sleeping, and I was at the computer putting an album of our walk onto Facebook. Then I chatted with Wendy on Facebook. Now it's almost three hours later - Shelby is still sleeping, and I've accomplished nothing around the house, and
it still hasn't rained! Below, some photos from our walk.

The Mississippi River (the Canadian version) that runs through Carleton Place, and at one time powered all these mills!

This building was the Horace Brown flour mill, and is now condominiums. It's where I'd like to live when I retire!

This is the oldest remaining building from the Brown Mill complex. It's now a fancy Italian restaurant where my 16 year-old works.

The Bates and Innes woolen mill, built in 1871. Originally a woolen mill manufacturing fine worsteds and tweeds. Now it houses an electronic firm.
There are at least 3 other old stone mills in town, and I'll post photos of them next time!